NASA called her an American hero and pioneering legacy that will never be forgotten.
Katherine Johnson is best known for helping NASA with John Glenn’s orbital mission in 1962.
She was a physicist and mathematician who helped pioneer the first use of digital electronic computers at NASA.
According to NASA, the complexity of the orbital flight had necessitated the construction of a global communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida and Bermuda.
In a NASA biography of Johnson, NASA recalls that the computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the capsule’s trajectory in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were reluctant to put their lives in the hands of electronic calculating machines.
“Glenn instructed the engineers to ‘ask the girl’ – Johnson – to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on his desktop mechanical calculating machine. the NASA biography indicates.
Glenn’s flight was a success and marked a turning point in the competition
between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.
Johnson was born in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918.
Due to her intelligence, she was moved by many levels in school.
According to Undefeated by 13, Johnson attended high school on the campus of West Virginia State College. At 18, she enrolled in college itself, where she soon worked on the school’s math curriculum.
In 2015, then-President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her pioneering work leading black women to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In 2016, even Hollywood recognized Johnson’s effects when they made the film Hidden Figures depicting Johnson’s life and work with NASA.
Johnson died on February 24, 2020, at the age of 101. In her honor, NASA dedicated the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility at the Langley Research Center to commemorate the hard work she did to help get them to the stars.